Prepare for future MakerPro projects with inexpensive parts

October 28, 2016

When I'm inspired to make a new project, the last thing I want is to wait several days to make it. There are options, such as going to the store (I he...

When I’m inspired to make a new project, the last thing I want is to wait several days to make it. There are options, such as going to the store (I hear Radio Shack is back in business) or ordering something next, or even same-day delivery when it’s available. However, both can be expensive and still mean you have to wait, if only for a few hours or days. Plus, how are you supposed to get your parts after the zombie apocalypse happens?

So what is my solution? Up until very recently, it’s been to order parts as quickly as I could afford and wait for them like everyone else. After working on a project for Halloween that didn’t have to be done for several months, I decided to explore other sourcing options and was pleasantly surprised.

For me, this took the form of eBay, where I purchased what I needed, then decided to stock up on parts for the future. This included an Arduino UNO clone for $4.09 as well as a motor driver shield for $2.16, both including free shipping. Although I’ve never tried it, I’ve heard good things about AliExpress, which allows you to purchase goods in a similar fashion from overseas. Amazon can also have good deals on bulk orders, but I tend to think of it more for convenience than ultra-low prices.

Of course, there are several downsides to shopping like this. Shipping may be included, but it can take several weeks to come from China with a very wide range of delivery dates. If your project is time-sensitive, then ordering this way is likely not the best option. On the other hand, if you have some experience, you can buy what you think you will need beforehand and store it away for when you get the idea for your next big project. With the right components and tools, you can hopefully just go to your inventory and make your idea a reality immediately.

Another potential downside is that you may buy stuff that you never use. After buying what I needed for the project, I found myself browsing eBay, thinking that, “Ooh, I might need this–it’s only $2.00!” Having a small amount of money in my PayPal account, which I use almost exclusively to take and send small amounts of cash for MakerPro related activities, made it even easier.

On the other hand, as I build up my inventory, I should be more ready for the next project, and my “spending spree” still didn’t cost that much money–under $50, if my estimate is correct. Perhaps I should buy another case to put these components in ­– off of eBay or AliExpress with two-month shipping, of course!

Jeremy S. Cook is a freelance tech journalist and engineering consultant with over 10 years of factory automation experience. An avid maker and experimenter, you can see some of his exploits on the Jeremy Cook’s Projects YouTube Channel.

Jeremy Cook, Engineering Consultant